September 9 - A report by the English Federation of Disability Sport (EFDS) has claimed that disabled people are still experiencing barriers to participation in sport and physical activity.
The survey found that 70 per cent of disabled people claim that they want to do more sport, yet 60 per cent of those polled said that a lack of awareness of opportunities or a lack of available opportunities prevents them from taking part.
The report highlights the problems despite success of the London 2012 Paralympic Games and the exploits of British athletes such as David Weir, Jonnie Peacock and Ellie Simmonds, which saw disabled athletes very much in the public spotlight.
But report claims there are still many obstacles to overcome in terms of allowing disabled people access to sport.
The EFDS carried out the survey in November and December 2012 and despite the Paralympics having ended less than two months earlier, only two in ten respondents said that they had a sportsman or woman as a role model, although that figure doubled for 14 to 25-year-olds.
The most common role model for disabled people was found to be a family member.
"What we were trying to do was find out more generally about where disabled people get their motivation from, and one of the questions we thought we would ask after the Paralympics was about role models," chief executive of the EFDS, Barry Horne told insidethegames.
"And actually, if you take a step back and say that in reality, most people, when moving towards sport, are more likely to be [motivated to do sport] by someone they know, a family member or someone close to them, rather than that 'road to Damascus conversion' because they saw for example, Ellie Simmonds or David Weir to something impressive.
"Inspirational though, these big events can be, that won't actually have the behaviour change impact than say a targeted campaign at parents of disabled children would, especially if we can combine that with giving people messages in a way they respond to and give them opportunities that are meaningful."
The survey, which was carried out on 476 respondents, 382 of which were classed as people with "all impairments" while 94 were classed as people with "a learning disability", found that almost two-thirds of disabled people said that they would prefer to take part in sport and physical activity with a mix of disabled and non-disabled people, but only 51 per cent indicated that they currently do so.
Horne believes that more needs to be done to tackle the "narrow view" regarding the participation of disabled and non-disabled people in the same activities, citing the example of the Sky Ride campaign which encourages and facilitates the dual participation of disabled and non-disabled cyclists in mass riding events.
"What we are finding out with this research is that disabled people have the same range of motivations, desires and ambitions as non-disabled people," he said.
"What the majority of people told us is that, 'We just want to do sport, and we don't actually see our disability as the most single defining aspect of us as people, we just love football or we love tennis and we just want to play it'."
Just under 70 per cent of those surveyed said that playing sport and being active was important to them with the top three reasons given for taking part in sport being "it is fun", "to keep fit" and "to keep healthy," while swimming was cited as being the most popular sport with 46 per cent of respondents saying that they currently swim.
However, the report also found that there are still barriers to disabled sport at school with just over half of respondents indicating that they do not enjoy their experiences of sport at school while 69 per cent said that they prefer taking part in sport and physical activity with friends outside of the school gates.
Of those respondents with a learning disability however, who attended special school, 79 per cent indicated that they were more likely to enjoy taking part in sport.
Horne stressed that it is this area more than any other, which needs to be addressed in order to improve the participation of disabled people in sports and physical activities, pointing out that the best way to tackle disability inclusion at school is through better training for teachers that will provide them with the skills and knowledge of how to run PE lessons and sports sessions that allow disabled students to take a full and active part in.
Last year, as part of its Games legacy project, London 2012 Paralympic Games sponsors Sainsbury's launched an inclusive sports initiative called "Active Kids For All" and in partnership with the EFDS, the other Home Country disability sport organisations, the British Paralympic Association (BPA), Sport England and the Youth Sport Trust (YST) amongst others, the campaign aims to get more disabled children active in school sport.
The main focus of the campaign is an inclusive PE training programme that is designed to ensure teachers within schools have the required skills and confidence to teach and include disabled children in physical activity, PE lessons and sport, across the whole of the UK, something that Horne says is fundamental to moving forward.
"I use the phrase 'confidence and competence'", said Horne, who revealed that the aim of the campaign is to reach 26,000 teachers by the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
"Teachers need to feel more confident and competent when dealing with disabled children, and not feel like they are fragile and going to break, but that they are actually robust individuals quite often, who could join in the activity.
"But teachers also need more technical guidance on what kinds of inclusive activities would work and get disabled kids playing in mainstream schools alongside their school friends.
"What we want to do is to collaborate with the higher education teacher training colleges, so that they structure inclusion into their PE training and that more teachers will begin to come through the system."
Contact the writer of this story at [email protected],biz
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